A biennial is a large international art exhibition held every two years

Gilbert & George, ‘Fates’ 2005
Gilbert & George
Fates 2005
© Gilbert and George
Gary Hume, ‘Water Painting’ 1999
Gary Hume
Water Painting 1999
© Gary Hume
English Magic by Jeremy Deller inside the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2013

English Magic by Jeremy Deller inside the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Courtesy: British Council. Photo: Simon Grant, Tate

The first exhibition of this type was the Venice Biennale held in 1895, situated in the Giardini, a public park in Venice. The Giardini now houses thirty permanent national pavilions and many smaller temporary structures. The early years of the Venice Biennale were dominated by European art, but the exhibition now includes contributions from countries in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The late twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in biennials and by 2007 there were some fifty across the world, including the Beijing Biennial, the Liverpool Biennial, the Prague Biennale, the São Paulo Bienal and the Sharjah Biennial in The Gulf.

This explosion of large-scale international art exhibitions mirrors the financial boom in international art buying.

See also

Tate Paper

Biennials Without Borders?: Landmark Exhibitions Issue

The popularity of art biennials has been taken as proof of the collapse of the concept of the centre and ...


Venice Biennale 2013: dreams, yachts and automobiles

An historic manuscript, two smashed up Range Rovers and William Morris throwing a giant yacht into the lagoon…This year ...


Audio Arts: Volume 10 No 4

This cassette, recorded at Venice Biennale 1990, includes contributions from Anish Kapoor, Andrew Grahma-Dixon, Stuart Morgan, David Mach, Gray Watson ...


Venice Biennale: Tracey Emin

Tracey takes on Venice at the British Pavilion


Sarah Lucas Venice 2015 | TateShots

As we anticipate Sarah Lucas’ 2015 Venice pavilion we take a look back over her eclectic career